Would You write for free?

I recently read this article, about writers being asked to write for free.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them….Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again.

I empathize.

I’ve been asked, more number of times than I care to remember, to write for free. Till date, I haven’t written non-fiction for free. Fiction, though, is another matter. Some of my published stories were included in anthologies for free– some of them for charity (which I loved) and some just like that (which I went along with, because these are lit-zines with not much money). A few were paid for, but at a much lower rate than what my clients pay for my non-fiction articles. Apparently, there are very few markets for literary short stories, and most of them don’t pay much, and are notoriously tough to break into.

So far, I’m okay with it, because, I really write fiction as a passion, the way I keep aquariums or garden. Only, I’m much, much more passionate about fiction, both reading and writing, than I ever will be about my fish or plants. So, I’ve never considered making a living by writing fiction any more than I’ve thought of earning money by rearing fish or plants– I’m not saying that’s ideal, just that it hasn’t bothered me so far.

So, should I insist on getting paid for my fiction? (Naive question, some would say.)

As an author, have you written fiction for free? If yes, why? If no, why not? And if you’ve been paid, was it enough to pay your bills?

As a reader, do you ever wonder about whether the people whose work you enjoy get paid? Why, in your opinion, is there a stereotype of a starving artist or writer, but a surgeon, accountant or plumber is never expected to work for free?

Do you think an author should give away free stories like musicians give away free music? Is writing for free ‘good promotion’? Have at it in the comments– I need your opinion here! One randomly selected commenter will receive a copy of Tom Benson’s short story collection Smoke and Mirrors …which brings me to my regular monthly feature:



As part of my pledge in my A to Z Reflections post, and Supporting Indie authors I’ll be buying and then gifting books by Indie authors to all my three Recommended Blog Friends today the 16th of June, just like I did on the 16th of May. The idea is to simply pick up books I like, by Indie authors I like, and give them away to folks I like, each month.

These are the three bloggers I recommend today, and I’m gifting them tokens of my appreciation…books that I like!

Blogs you must read!
Blogs I Recommend

         MICHELLE STANLEY:  I can’t say enough about how supportive and kind Michelle is, and also an amazing writer. She is just the reader I can think of for One Beautiful Child, superbly crafted stories by Annalisa Crawford, my blog friend from Amlokiblogs.

              GARY PENNINCK : a dear soul and kind friend, who, while berating the A to Z Challenge has given it more publicity and love than many who have participated in it.  I’m gifting him a copy of The Path Through the Eye of Another by Davey Northcott , a supporter of this blog. Gary is just the sort of guy who would enjoy a lyrical book, full of emotions and a passion to survive, and a ‘good fight for what is right’ kind of story.

             M. L. SWIFT:  a good blog friend, a wonderful writer, and terrific blogger. He has recently come back to blogging after a short hiatus. To him a I gift Smoke and Mirrors a collection of delicious short stories by Tom Benson, another of my supportive blog friends, and a prolific, versatile author.

To all three of you, thank you for your support and I hope you have tons of visitors on your blogs this coming year. I don’t expect you to do anything with the book other than enjoy it, and if you want to support Indie Authors, too, buy a copy for your friends or family!


Dear reader, what are your thoughts on the questions above? Do you know any of the bloggers I recommend?


Add Yours
  1. perpetualadmin

    Reblogged this on The Oddity Writer and commented:
    Damyanti is one of the latest followers to “The Oddity Writer”, and it was an honor to get her attention. I’ve been following her for awhile, and I enjoy reading about writing, as much as I enjoy writing about writing (which is why my first piece of fiction was metafiction).

    Personally, I would write for free- I used to be teeming with ideas and I always need to think on them or scrawl them in a notebook later on, or just tell someone about them. Although the stream of ideas isn’t as smooth anymore, producing content is still something I love to do, and I don’t know what I would be without it.

    Thank you for following me, Damyanti, and welcome aboard! I hope that you look forward to more content from me…


  2. Ron

    Yes, I do write for free, and I do write to get paid as well. I guess the question can be sourced from different angles. Most writers (beginners and aspiring) do write for experience and approbation, that would suffice in the interim. We all know that professional writers get paid for their works, but there’s always an adhoc situation when they just write because they are inspired to share what they have in their soul and brain, and no monetary activity is involved.

    You posted a great question. And I know that there are equally great answers from your followers.
    Thanks for sharing Damyanti.



  3. Nan Sampson

    Interesting question. I will discount books for a promotion, and give copies for free, but as a rule, my time is worth the small price I charge for my work. That’s just me – I don’t denigrate anyone for the decisions they make. If people want to give their work away, that is a personal choice. Blogging, on the other hand, I do for free. Blogging is just a way to a way to share what’s going on in my life and in my head. :) I don’t think that’s worth much. If I make people think, or give them a laugh, that’s payment enough for that stuff!

    That picture at the top of your blog is gorgeous! Where was it taken?


    • Damyanti

      If you mean the picture in the header, it was taken somewhere opposite the Cedar Avenue between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi– in Hakone, Japan. That sunset wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but the light certainly was beautiful– I clicked this one on my phone, and cropped it.


  4. Ranju

    Firstly, I love your name. :)
    Secondly, love your style. I am no one to judge and I have just stepped into the writing world. But i believe in appreciating.
    About writing for free, I believe in law of Karma. No artist, musician or writer can be asked to give away their creation for free.



    Well, I concur with you when you say the market for fiction is pretty constricted. Fiction enthuses me much more than any other realm and knowingly, I pursue the trails just to get that aplomb of having done something worthwhile. :)


  6. Holly Jahangiri

    Yes, and no. It depends, but ultimately comes down to it being MY CHOICE. I won’t be compelled or guilted into writing for free for anyone, and “free exposure” just sounds kind of kinky. (This inspired another blog post on my blog, by the way. You have a habit of doing that.)


  7. thepaperbutterfly

    My friend and I have talked at length about this because we both write fanfiction. The whole premise of fanfiction is based around the fact that you don’t get paid, and you can never publish anything you write because you are stealing someone else’s characters. You get reviews if your story is written well. That’s it. And because there is no money in it, and fanfiction does nothing to increase your exposure to the literary world, it can feel a bit frustrating when people read but don’t review. For every hundred hits I get about 1 review. And my story had like 65,000 hits on it. So I don’t really mind writing for free. Heck writing original fiction feels so different because I can actually publish it. My 200,000 word fanfic will always remain something I can’t publish. But I learned a lot about writing from fanfiction, and it gave me a lot of practice. So yeah, I don’t really mind writing for free. I just want others to read my stuff, lol.


  8. DianeTiwana

    As a new writer (at least calling myself a writer), I worked on several platforms….4 months into it, I gave it up. I felt used, abused and undermined as well as underpaid. So I’ve given it up. Whether I will write for free, I don’t know yet. But what I know is that I’ll never write fiction for others that underpay me and then get credit for it.


  9. vanmaniac

    Yes! Even some well known writers have written for free one point in time. Writing for free can lead to more work. Though it might lead to more writing for free, it will open up work that pays. Getting your name out there, credits to your name, works in your writing portfolio open doors.

    My current work is free. The Five Kingdoms of Severi can be read online for free. It will be turned into a book towards the end of this year and finally earn me and my publishers money. But in the year that it has taken to write and edit it all the work has been done for free on both ends.

    Two flash fictions I wrote for free gave me the credibility and confidence to write a book and submit it. Even though I had written three novels before then they sat in my computer to gather dust.

    As a writer one doubts their worth and at times it is those that are free that accept your work. For a beginner and even someone who is well known it is good to write for free once or twice. Get that confidence, get that published work added to your list, and expand your writer’s platform and then move from there.


  10. Lida Bushloper

    This is not in answer to your thought provoking questions, but rather to express concern that you did not give an attribution or credit for the rather long passage you quoted from someone else’s article. Or did I miss something? It’s an excellent quote and not only would I like to know where it came from, but I’m sure the author would appreciate proper acknowledgement. Thanks for signing up to follow my blog. I hope I prove worthy. I think you have a marvelous blog and I’m so glad it has come to my attention.


  11. The Ink Caster

    As friend and fellow novelist mournfully said on this subject, “Writing fiction for a living is a fool’s career. The problem is that humanity’s got us by the balls; they know we can’t NOT write.”

    I’m not the sort of person who needs to have compensation for every piece of art I pour out into the world–or even for most of them. But as I do want to write (mostly fiction) for a career, I am going to have to figure out how to convince a great many people that giving me money in exchange for some story of mine is a fantastic idea… and idea I know I’ve been on the buying side of many a time, so at least I know it’s not impossible. ^-^


  12. FlaHam

    Damyanti, you continue to visit and I continue to appreciate each of your visits. The only writing I do is for my blog, I have never gotten a penny for any of the 300K words I have posted so far, and don’t expect to be. But you poise an interesting question. I was/am naive, my expectations are that if it’s offered in blog form I don’t need to pay, but if it’s written in another type of forum, and I wanted it, yes I should pay. I have an IPod that has over 1500 songs, and I have paid for every one of those in one way or another. If I were a budding novelist and wanted to get known I do believe I would share my work for free just to get it out there, but as I developed a readership, at some point my works would have to be bought. I know my response is all over the place and for that I am sorry. Smiling maybe that’s why I don’t expect to be paid. Please take care, Bill


  13. Adan Ramie

    While I agree that most doctors, bankers, and mechanics wouldn’t work for free, and that artists have a terrible reputation of dying hungry, crazy, and alone, I still sometimes write for free. If you visit my blog, you’ll see I have a whole category of flash fiction that I just give to whoever wants to read it. My intent is to give readers a taste, so that when my first book is published, they’ll want to put their money down on it. Will it work? I’m not sure. But it’s worth a shot.


I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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